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BTK Victims’ Families Lawsuits–No Compensation for Anguish

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BTK Strangler Dennis Rader has opted to represent himself against a slew of lawsuits filed against him by victims’ families. The families of most of his known victims have been filing lawsuits against the admitted “Bind Torture Kill” murderer who recently pleaded guilty to 10 first degree murder charges in Wichita, Kansas. Ever since his graphic admission in court on June 27, 2005 to brutally killing 10 people between 1974 and 1991 in their homes mostly by strangulation, the surviving family members have been attempting to prevent Rader from profiting from his crimes in any way by demanding monetary compensation for the anguish and loss caused by these murders. The monetary demands are symbolic, as the real intent is to prevent a master criminal from getting rich from his notoriety.

In response, in a surprising move from the killer himself, BTK has opted to serve as his own attorney in the civil suits against him. He filed the necessary paperwork to that effect on July 29. Mark Hutton, a lawyer representing Charles Bright, the father of victim Kathryn Bright who was 21 when BTK killed her in 1974, describes Rader’s paperwork as surprisingly well done.

“I’ve got to tell you, the legal pleading he’s setting forth is picture perfect,” he said. “It’s done properly, it’s well spaced, he uses the phrase ‘pro se’ in italics…
Something is going on there. Either he’s a closet lawyer or a closet paralegal or somebody’s helping him,” commented Hutton.

BTK, although universally hated, is not without support. People have been sending him money in jail, although the lawsuits will prevent him from keeping any significant sum. Why he is opting to even bother to answer the lawsuits in court is not directly known. He has no significant assets to lose, having given all property and retirement accounts to his wife Paula in her divorce from him which took effect on July 26. If he had neglected to file any response to the lawsuits, a default judgment would have been rendered to order him to pay the full amount sought against him, which would be impossible at the current time. What he would hope to gain by serving as his own lawyer is a mystery. A few days in court, perhaps, more public exposure, an opportunity to say a few more words? Who knows.

But before this topic falls by the wayside, I wanted to mention what just one of the families has been through as a result of BTK.

Vicki Wegerle was a housewife and mother of two when BTK knocked on her door on September 16, 1986. She was home alone with her two year old son. Her husband Bill was at work but due home for lunch soon. By his own admission, BTK pretended to be a telephone repairman of some kind and dressed himself up to resemble one, complete with hardhat. He told Vicki there was a problem in the system and asked to check her phone. She let him in and he pretended to test the phone. He then attacked her, and after a violent struggle succeeded in tying her up and strangling her. He then posed her dying body in several positions which he photographed with a Polaroid camera.

BTK fled the crime scene driving the Wegerle’s car, which he parked a short distance away, then walked to his own vehicle and left.

A short time later Bill Wegerle arrived home for lunch and found Vicki unconscious and bound. He immediately called 911 but she was pronounced dead a short time later at the hospital. From that time on began a total nightmare for the Wegerle family.

At the time there had been no known murders or messages from the BTK Strangler in seven years. DNA testing was still unknown. As is normally the case in the murder of a family member, the police start where many murders of wives occur, the husband. They grilled a shocked and bewildered Bill Wegerle for quite some time, and continued to treat him as a likely murderer during the investigation. He remembered thinking at the time that the police are supposed to be the good guys, not the enemies. It was a situation so bad that one former detective recently admitted that he is still ashamed of what the police did to Bill Wegerle.

Wegerle had to live underneath this dark cloud for the next 18 years. Not only had he lost the lovely wife and mother of his two children, he had lost a degree of respect and trustability by those who knew him. It’s like that when people don’t know for sure what happened.

Finally in March 2004 a letter arrived at the Wichita Eagle newspaper from none other than BTK himself. He took full credit for the murder of Vicki Wegerle, even enclosing three photos of her posed body and a copy of her missing driver’s license. Vicki became his eighth known victim. Two other cold cases would be solved in 2005 when police found evidence of two more murders.

On July 8, 2005 a lawsuit was filed against Dennis Rader by Bill Wegerle and his two grown children, Stephanie Clyne and Brandon Wegerle.

“We want to keep him from ever profiting from his crimes,” said Jim Thompson, the lawyer representing the Wegerles.

Of course it unlikely the Wegerles or any of the other families will ever receive anything at all from Rader, just the satisfaction of seeing him locked in jail and deprived of any possible profit from his evil. There can be no compensation, however, for all the lost years of anguish and sorrow.

For more reading on the BTK Strangler and to view the confession video, go to my website, The BTK Site.

About Frank Waldron

  • http://blogcritics.org/archives/2005/07/31/065012.php Allyne

    Another excellent article from Frank Waldron, one of the most knowledgeable observers of the BTK case.

  • Jennifer

    Reasons Dennis Rader is defending against wrongful death suits:

    1. Prison is a boring place. Working on lawsuits gives you something to do, access to the prison library, people to talk to.

    2. People are admiring his legal work. He’s got to be a “closet lawyer or a closet paralegal.” Without these lawsuits, he’d just be another forgotten convict. Hey, if the papers aren’t publishing accounts of your crimes and people aren’t terrified of you, at least they can admire how smart you are in your legal pleadings.

    3. There is an argument to be made that Rader used his divorce to transfer all assets to his wife and render himself judgment proof. Failing to even defend against these suits bolsters that argument. On the other hand, Rader no longer has any assets to pay an attorney. So, he’s left defending himself.

    Personally, I think the best thing that could happen to this guy (short of the death penalty) is that he be forgotten forever. He shouldn’t be allowed to use these lawsuits as a way to elicit media attention. All wrongful death proceedings should be sealed.

    For sure, he shouldn’t be able to transfer his assets to his ex-wife (so that she and maybe he can benefit from them in the future) to avoid financial liability. To the extent to which he paid for/contributed to the marital assets, they should be available for award to the families of victims. If Rader was charged with a DRUG crime, this asset transfer would never have been permitted — the federal government would have declared the property forfeit. Why should a serial murderer and his family get better treatment than someone who sells cocaine?

  • fuckyouass

    hhow could he do that to those ppl hahahahahahaha i reallyy dont care this is the first time i hear of btk

  • Cowgirl

    I personally know a surviving victim of the BTK killer. It’s very very sad that our system did not follow these victims and offer help. This little girl was only 4 when she witnessed the crime of her mother being mudered. The state compensated her only $9,000. She went on to have 4 chilren of her own which were taken away by DHS. She has not ideal where they are today. I can’t imagine what I would do if my life story was like this one. Too bad we waste goverment money letting people like Rader live!!